- An elementary school principal wrote an email about white privilege in response to the Memphis police video and 3 mass shootings in California.
- The officers charged were all black; 2 of the mass shootings involved Asian suspects and the third, a gang-related shooting, is unsolved.
- The principal misstated the number of people killed and discussed the color of white students’ skin, saying it gave them power and privilege.
A Sun Prairie Elementary school principal told parents in an email that “white privilege is an unlimited ATM, it never runs out,” as a police video was released showing the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols in which five black Memphis police officers have been criminally charged.
Creekside Elementary principal Kyle Walsh wrote the email Friday in which he pledged to “speak and swiftly act” against incidents of racism. His email referred to the Memphis police beating and three separate mass shootings in California; he claimed more than “40 people” were killed in the mass shootings in Monterey Park, Half Moon Bay, and Oakland, California last week. However, Walsh’s email was false; actually, 19 people were killed in the three shootings.
Although Kyle Walsh used all of these high-profile incidents to argue that “our white students need to know that they have enormous power and privilege simply due to the color of their skin,” in fact, two of the shootings were committed by Asian males, and the suspects in the third shooting are unknown. All of the officers charged in the Memphis beating were black.
Walsh also wrote that “especially” students of color should feel safe in school.
“All students, and especially our students of color, should feel safe, respected, seen, and heard. They should feel connected to our staff, and what they learn and experience in school each and every day,” Walsh wrote.
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The email was sent by Walsh and signed by Walsh and Associate Principal Jacquie Gouldthorp.
Authorities have not indicated a white supremacy motive for any of the incidents mentioned in the email.
-72-year-old Huu Can Tran gunned down patrons at a ballroom dance hall in predominantly Asian Monterey Park, where tens of thousands attended Lunar New Year festivities. Eleven were killed and nine wounded.
-Chunli Zhao, 66, shot and killed four people at the mushroom farm where he worked, then drove to another farm where he had previously worked and killed three additional people, police say. Zhao is in jail and faces murder charges.
-In the Oakland shooting, authorities think a gang might be behind the shooting. According to NBC, multiple shooters opened fire at a music video shoot. One person was killed and four others wounded.
Authorities did not say that white supremacy was a motive in any of the incidents.
Walsh wrote, “Right now, it is our responsibility- especially those of us with privilege and voice- to speak out, stand up, and remove barriers that have denied Black people and people of color in the United States for far too long. Now is a time when we must all come together to rise up for true systemic change.”
We asked Walsh for comment, writing,
“The incidents described in your email to parents were perpetrated by persons of color (two Asian, one Hispanic, and five Black) Why did you find it necessary to send out an email in which you referenced these incidents while discussing white power and privilege, but yet fail to mention the race of the suspects in these incidents, and that none were in fact, white?
Do you believe these incidents were racially motivated, if so, how?
The Memphis police beating death of Tyre Nichols involved 5 black police officers. Can you explain how white privilege and white power caused his death? What barriers are in place that need to be lifted that would have prevented his death?
Do you teach your elementary students that white students have enormous power and privilege because of the color of their skin?”
He did not respond.
Creekside Elementary Principal Kyle Walsh Email
This is the complete email Walsh sent to parents:
From: Kyle Walsh <[email protected]
Date: Fri, Jan 27, 2023 at 4:28 PM
Subject: Supporting our Creekside Community
To: Creekside Elementary Recipients <[email protected]
It is with frustration, anger, and a deep sense of sadness that we are sending this communication today. This has been a difficult week for many members of our school community and beyond. Over 40 people have died in three separate mass shootings in California- in Monterey Park, Half Moon Bay, and Oakland- this week, significantly impacting our Asian-American community, as the victims who were senselessly killed during Lunar New Year celebrations identified closely with that community. Mass shootings in schools, workplaces, and places of worship happen again and again. It’s times like these that may make it difficult to have faith or trust in humanity. Then, there’s more.
By now, you may be aware of how the police-involved death of a Black Tennessee man, Tyre Nichols, in early January, has evolved. The police body camera footage is being released today, after a grand jury indicted the five officers who were fired by Memphis police on several charges. Memphis Police Chief, Cerelyn Davis, describes the video released as depicting “a disregard for life… duty of care… and physical interaction that is… beyond what is required in law enforcement.” This incident is beyond tragic.
In Sun Prairie and at Creekside, we are committed to a culture of care, and have an obligation to support our community, including students, families, and staff. Our SPASD Equity Vision states:
“We stand by our Black and Brown students, staff, and families of color. We will continue to speak and swiftly act against statements of bigotry, social injustice, discrimination, racism, and hate that may plague members of our community. We are committed to the development and implementation of strategies and best practices that dismantle racism, bigotry, and ethnic oppression within all aspects of our schools and school district.”
Relevant to these most recent acts of hate and violence, our district has closely engaged with Courageous Conversation to deepen our learning around race and equity. The work is centered around developing and utilizing a “protocol for effectively engaging, sustaining and deepening interracial dialogue… helping individuals and organizations address persistent racial disparities intentionally, explicitly, and comprehensively.” Through Courageous Conversation, we have also learned that in situations and events that center race, we are all affected in different ways that are personal, local, and immediate.
Right now, it is our responsibility- especially those of us with privilege and voice- to speak out, stand up, and remove barriers that have denied Black people and people of color in the United States for far too long. Now is a time when we must all come together to rise up for true systemic change. We know that our community has the potential to do long-lasting and transformative work. We commit to answering the call for educators to hold themselves accountable for dismantling racism by cultivating anti-racists beliefs in ourselves and our scholars. All students, and especially our students of color, should feel safe, respected, seen, and heard. They should feel connected to our staff, and what they learn and experience in school each and every day.
Our white students need to know that they have enormous power and privilege simply due to the color of their skin, and can and will be part of the change needed to dismantle systems of oppression that exist. Helping our students understand this must be done with care and- of course- in a way that is supportive and developmentally appropriate for our Coyotes. The work is hard, and we cannot remain neutral. Ibram Kendi says, “Proclaiming that you are “not racist” does not require anyone to consider how they should fight racism. To be anti-racist, on the other hand, means developing a philosophy that directly confronts that of a racist.”
Parent and Caregiver Resources
For our parents and caregivers of color who must live with the overwhelming stress of having to talk to your children about the injustices they face- so that they are prepared to survive– is undoubtedly an inexplicable experience and weight to carry. This resource on Racial Stress and Self-Care may be helpful.
For our white parents and caregivers- which both of us are- we know it can be difficult to know how to begin conversations with our own children about race, especially when it isn’t something we have to think about and face every day if we don’t want to. That alone means we have privilege and power. Bettina Love describes having white privilege as an unlimited ATM; it never runs out. How we use that privilege is what matters most- at this moment and always. These resources may be helpful in helping build our racial consciousness and muscle:
How To Talk to Children About Tragedy in the Media
Talking About Race, Racism, and Violence
Engaging My Child: Parent Tip Tool (quick read with some great tips)
A Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice (longer comprehensive resource)
How to Talk to Kids About Black Lives and Police Violence
Supporting our School Community
On Monday, we will be prepared to support our students, families, and staff however needed. That’s an enormous responsibility to bear as educators, but one we must, no matter the situations with which we’re faced. Should you as a guardian want to talk to someone from our school community, please don’t hesitate to reach out to anyone listed below. We are here to listen, learn, and move forward together as co-conspirators, not only allies.
Creekside Student Services Team:
Kyle Walsh (Principal) – [email protected]
Jacquie Gouldthorp (Associate Principal) – [email protected]
Casey Popowski (Counselor) – [email protected]
Kia Sims (Social Worker) – [email protected]
Lauren Liska (Psychologist) – [email protected]
We will not always get it right, but we are committed to learning so that someday the societal change that should have happened decades- and centuries- ago will finally come. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t believe that can start right here at Creekside.
In partnership- always,
Jacquie and Kyle